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Toolkit launched to improve patient handover safety


Doctors can learn from nurses’ greater experience of patient handover, according to latest guidance.

The Royal College of Physicians last week published a toolkit designed to improve safety during patient handover between clinicians and teams.

“Poor handover between doctors, nurses and multidisciplinary teams is a common cause of error in hospitals, and is a major preventable cause of patient harm,” the college warns. 

As a result it says there is a need to define “common core principles for handover”, which can be adapted locally.

The toolkit provides a framework for standardising clinical handover practice – defining good handover principles, what a handover framework should contain, and identifying specific elements that need to be carried out to avoid mistakes. 

It highlights that a standardised form for written handover is “essential” and should preferably be used in conjunction with a face-to-face discussion, while the sickest patients may require a bedside handover.

The document adds: “Doctors can learn from other professionals’ experience and adopt or adapt the practice for collaborative trans-professional use, eg nurses have more experience of shift working, and therefore of handover.”

RCP clinical advise Cordelia Coltart, who helped develop the toolkit, said: “Handover has been identified as a particularly ‘high-risk’ step in the patient pathway, where errors are likely to occur. 

“These errors are preventable and this toolkit aims to give practical guidance to assess and improve the handover process within your trust to improve patient safety and care,” she said.

The toolkit and other resources, including a template for a handover form, can be downloaded from the RCP website:


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Readers' comments (2)

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  • one of the large private nursing home companies in the uk has now stopped paying for handover time, absolutely no overlap between shifts, but has not put any taping or other time free structure in place.... i wonder who will take the blame when the errors start to happen? and yes... i have raised the concern!! so maybe they could add a mandatory requirement for a little protected time to their recommendations, or the RCN could do something similar. the toolkit is excellent, would be great to find something similar for nurse to nurse shift handovers... any resources anyone has found effective??? please share.

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